The Food and Drug Administration approved Monday the first pill aimed at preventing HIV infections in healthy people who risk contracting the disease through unsafe sex.
The medication, Truvada, is the first drug shown to protect people from becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It is already used to treat HIV-positive patients.
“New prevention methods are needed in order to have a major impact on the HIV epidemic in this country,” Dr. Debra Birnkrant, director of the division of antiviral products at the FDA, said during a press conference.
She said the overall rate of new infections has remained stable, but “we continue to see about 50,000 adults and adolescents diagnosed with new HIV infections each year. Infection rates among men who have sex with men, particularly among young minority men, have increased significantly.”
Truvada is intended for adults at high risk of contracting HIV, which include sexually active gay men and healthy partners of HIV-infected individuals, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
The manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, did not have an estimate of the number of people who might take the drug to prevent HIV infections.